reaction in which plutonium-242 is bombarded with protons at the energy that maximizes the emission of three neutrons to make americium-240. Once he has mastered the techniques to produce the tiny amounts (<100 ng) of americium-240 required to measure fission probabilities, experiments will be performed at the LANL Neutron Science Center, where he has already spent several months as part of his practicum. Paul also performs fundamental low-energy nuclear physics research on the heaviest elements, such as the yet unnamed element-114.

The nucleus is a complex quantum system made of neutrons and protons. One goal of nuclear structure research is to establish a unified framework for understanding the properties of atomic nuclei and, potentially, for extrapolating to the limits of nuclear existence. Fellow Angelo Signoracci from MSU is working on such a unified framework (Figure FEL 2). He will be developing a hybrid method that builds on decades of experience with shell model calculations, which provide detailed predictions of nuclear structure with many input parameters, and the energy density functional approach, which could predict the entire nuclear landscape with one parameterization. By spending his practicum at LLNL, he was able to interact with the laboratory’s scientists, who are leading efforts that exploit its petascale computing facilities.


FIGURE FEL 2 Graduate student Angelo Signoracci develops computer models of the structure of atomic nuclei. SOURCE: Image courtesy of K. Kingery, Communications manager at MSU’s National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory.

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